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Fw: ALERT: Pawnee NG - Potential threat to birds

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  • Bill/Cheryl Day
    If we could all take a minute and send a quick email, it would be a big help. Wind farms are great, but they are putting them in the worst places... Thanks -
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2006
      If we could all take a minute and send a quick email, it would be a big
      help. Wind farms are great, but they are putting them in the worst places...

      Thanks - Cheryl Day, Hotchkiss

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "STROM, Ken" <KSTROM@...>
      To: <CO-GENERAL@...>
      Sent: Saturday, July 29, 2006 8:37 AM
      Subject: ALERT: Pawnee NG - Potential threat to birds

      New Windfarm to be Built on Pawnee Escarpment

      I want to alert everyone to some possible damaging impacts on birds and
      habitats from a new wind energy development that's about to be constructed
      on the northern edge of the Pawnee National Grassland. Audubon is certainly
      not opposed to wind energy, and no one is proposing to stop this
      development, but we and the widlife agencies are trying to head off serious
      impacts from the placement of various turbines (windmills) in the large
      array that's being designed. If you share our concerns, please consider
      submitting comments to the developer and/or attending an important hearing
      in Greeley next Wednesday.

      The proposed windfarm, known as Cedar Creek, will consist of up to 300
      turbines that will be erected in the area north and west of the Pawnee
      Buttes, extending over a large area, with the southernmost row of turbines
      stretching along part of the rim of the escarpment that includes the chalk
      bluffs and stretches from east of Grover to the area of the Buttes. Because
      it is being constructed on private land, there are few regulations that can
      keep them from building the turbines wherever they want. However, the
      Colorado Division of Wildlife has been making recommendations to the
      developer to place the turbines and conduct their construction and
      operations in a way that will avoid serious disturbance and damage to
      nesting birds, etc. This week we've learned that the developer (Greenlight
      Energy, of Virginia) has been unwilling to commit to voluntarily following
      all of the DOW recommendations, which have actually been negotiated down
      from some more stringent requests (which Audubon and others believe were the
      more appropriate ones for protecting the values of the habitats). Although
      there's been some movement on their part this week, we still have not heard
      a public commitment or seen a commitment in writing from Greenlight Energy
      that they will voluntarily follow the DOW recommendations to protect birds
      and wildlife habitats. The problem is that they are going before the Weld
      County Commissioners next Wednesday, Aug. 2, to ask for their construction
      permit, which they might very well receive that day without any commitment
      on their part to protect birds and bird habitats. They expect to have many
      of the turbines erected by next summer.

      We believe it would be very helpful for the developer and county
      commissioners to hear from Colorado citizens that the escarpment and the
      surrounding shortgrass prairie are important to birders, conservationists
      and others, and that these are an important part of Colorado's heritage that
      need to be protected. If they realize that the public is watching them, we
      hope that Greenlight Energy will do the right thing. I can't possibly cover
      all of the issues in this email, but some of the key recommendations from
      DOW are that the turbines be kept out of a buffer of 1/2-mile from eagle and
      prairie falcon nests and 1/4-mile from other raptor nests, while the siting
      of other turbines is being negotiated at distances closer to the rim of the
      escarpment (100 to 200 meters in some cases). These buffers are to protect
      the nesting birds from human disturbances associated with operating and
      maintaining the turbines. (FYI, some biologists believe that none of the
      turbines should be within 1/2-mile of the rim -- where roughly 75 active and
      inactive raptor nests have been identified this year.) Another
      recommendation calls for avoiding ground-nesting birds during the
      construction of each of the turbines.

      If you want to help put pressure on the developer to be a good corporate
      citizen, please send an email to Greenlight Energy expressing your concerns,
      along with anything you may want to say about the importance of the prairie
      in and near the Pawnee NG and the escarpment itself. Your email can be very
      short. If you want, you could request that they voluntarily follow the DOW
      recommendations, at a minimum. (Send to: Matt Hantzmon, Managing Director,
      matt@... ; and to Kevin Davis, Director of Project Development,
      kevin@... ) You can also copy those comments to the Weld County
      Commissioners (e-address: egesick@... ) or send separate comments
      to them for their consideration at Wednesday's hearing. Please identify
      yourself as a Weld Co. resident if you are, or as a birder who spends money
      in Weld Co. while birding if you do. (If possible, please blind copy me, as
      well, kstrom@..., or at least let me know off-list that you've
      commented.) Some of you may also be concerned about the impact of the
      turbines on the viewshed. They will stretch for miles along the top of the
      escarpment, and they aren't small. These turbines reach roughly 400 feet
      into the air and each turbine's blades sweep an area about the size of a
      football field. It's important to recognize that no matter what happens,
      these turbines are going to become a permanent pa brt of the landscape along
      the escarpment. The only question is how far back they will be set from the
      top rim.

      It would be great to have a showing by both Weld County residents and
      birders from other places who care about the Pawnee. You don't have to
      testify unless you want to. Just being there will help a lot. We're
      working with one of the ranchers who will testify at the hearing and would
      love to have birders in the room who support his position (in support of the
      DOW recommendations) and will stand up if he asks for a show of support.
      He's asked me to tell you that if any birders show up at the hearing, he'll
      be glad to treat them to a birding trip on his property in the future, which
      is a beautiful ranch that includes a portion of the escarpment and has
      nesting prairie falcons and other raptors right now. I'm especially hoping
      that folks from Weld County and nearby Larimer County will try to attend.
      The hearing will take place in Greeley in the County Commissioners Chamber
      at 915 10th St., First Floor, at 10 AM on Wednesday August 2, 2006. (Here's
      a link to the on-line notice:
      http://www.co.weld.co.us/meetings-minutes/Notices2006/No06-46.html .) If
      you plan to attend, it would help me if you would let me know off-list. If
      you have questions or want more info, please contact me off-list as well.

      No matter what the outcome of the hearing is, we intend to keep pressure on
      the developers to do any siting and construction properly. You can continue
      to help in the coming months with additional communications with the
      developer to encourage them to minimize environmental damage, so you could
      make more detailed comments in the future.

      PLEASE SHARE THIS WITH OTHERS who might comment, whether birders or not, and
      especially with Weld/Larimer Co. residents who might be able to attend the
      hearing. Thanks a lot for helping in any way.


      Ken Strom
      Director of Bird Conservation
      Audubon Colorado
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